Supermarket inflation has hit its lowest level this year but remains high, forcing people to change the way they eat and cook as household budgets are stretched, according to data firm Kantar.
Annual food inflation in Britain fell to 16.5% in the four weeks to June 11, from 17.2% last month and a record 17.5% in March. It remains at its sixth highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, Kantar said. The largest price increases were for eggs, cooking sauces and frozen potato products.
The figures come a day ahead of official UK inflation data, which is expected to show a decline to 8.4% in May from 8.7% in April, when food and drink prices rose to a annual rate of 19.1%.
Rishi Sunak’s promise to halve inflation this year is threatened by stubbornly high food inflation, which has kept the headline rate higher than expected.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insights at Kantar, said: “This is the lowest grocery price inflation rate we have seen in 2023, which relieve buyers and retailers.
“But the 16.5% rise in prices is nothing to celebrate and is still the sixth highest monthly figure in the last 15 years. The price increases are now compared to the rising rate of grocery inflation seen last summer, which means it should continue to fall in the coming months, a welcome result for everyone.
A survey for Kantar found that among consumers’ top five financial concerns, rising food prices are the only one that worries them more now than at the start of the year.
Nearly 70% of households are either “extremely” or “very worried” about food and drink inflation, up from just over two-thirds in January. It remains the second biggest concern behind rising energy bills.
Consumers have turned to cheaper own-brand ranges from supermarkets to save money, where sales are up 41% from last year, and are changing the way they eat and cook, a Kantar said.
McKevitt added: “People are thinking more and more about what they eat and how they cook as the cost of living crisis weighs on traditional behaviors. The biggest change we’ve seen is that people are making simpler dishes with fewer ingredients. Our data shows that the public is turning away from their oven and using microwaves more and more, reflecting the shift to simpler cooking.
There have been 4% fewer meals prepared in the oven in the past 12 weeks compared to the same period last year, while microwave meals have increased by 8%, and there has been a increase in food prepared with toasters and grills.
Sue Davies, head of food policy at consumer group Which?, said the high prices “hammered the household budgets of millions, including desperate families and low-income people who skipped meals for many months to make ends meet.